Literacy Skills for the Knowledge Society, the second comparative report from the International Adult Literacy Survey, presents new findings for 12 OECD countries. Low literacy is a much larger problem than previously assumed in every country surveyed: from one-quarter to over one-half of the adult population fail to reach the threshold level of performance considered as a suitable minimum skill level for coping with the demands of modern life and work.
There are significant differences among Member countries in how literacy skills are distributed in the population. In some, performance is skewed towards exceptional achievement among a minority in the work force; in others skills are more evenly distributed, with less people on the lowest level. Differences in the skill profiles of nations have implications for continued economic prosperity, democracy and social cohesion because jobs in knowledge societies require high levels of skills.
Improving the literacy skills of a large number of adults is a high priority everywhere, but how can this be done? This report suggests that active and daily practice at work and at home is the key. Employers in particular have a large role to play, because of the importance of the work environment to much adult learning.